Is It "Just Semantics"?
Our words and the meanings we attach to those words create attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and our decisions, affect people's daily lives, and more. Words, their meanings, and how we use words matter a great deal!
Lost Art of Manners
Most of us work hard to have good manners, but our best efforts often seem to fall by the wayside when it comes to people with disabilities. Let's find our manners again! (Click here for the Spanish-language page.)
Problem with "Problem"
With the best of intentions, we describe the "problems" of a person with a disability, in order to explain, get more services, or for some other reason. But our efforts can lead to negative consequences! This article describes better methods of communicating. (Click here for the Spanish-language page.)
Shhh! Someone's Listening, Watch Your Language!
Sometimes we demonstrate "inappropriate behavior" when it comes to talking about individuals with disabilities. It's time to remember that people have feelings and we need to watch our language. So, shhhh...
TMI and Organ Recitals
Are you ready to chuckle and wince in the same article? There's a TMI Epidemic on the horizon and there are too many Organ Recitals being performed, but it's possible to nip these in the bud before things go too far!
What's in a Name?
Which is better: "Hollywood Snow" or "the SPED kid"? See what a difference a name makes!
Who Is a "Caregiver"?
Not too many years ago, people who were related to one another and who took care of each other were simply called "family." So who's a caregiver and who's not?
Who Is a "Consumer"?
Disability jargon is a mess, and "consumer" is a word that's commonly used. But what does it mean and is it a descriptor chosen by people with disabilities or was it imposed on them?
"Wrong" is Just Not Right!
We hear it all the time: "What's wrong with him," or "We think there's something wrong with her because..." What does this word do to the people we're talking about? This word is just not right!
PEOPLE FIRST LANGUAGE and More
Same and Different: Respect for All (for Children)
When we help children learn that we're all the same, but we're also all different, we can eliminate prejudice early! This document includes a two-page article for children, plus suggestions and ideas for use by teachers and parents.
The Case Against "Special Needs"
Like other words in Disability World, this term is so commonly used we seldom think about what it means. Have you considered that it promotes pity, negative attitudes, and segregation? It's time to throw this descriptor into the junk heap!
Hierarchy of Insults
"Idiot," "crazy," and "retard" are some disability descriptors that have been turned into insults. What does this say about attitudes about disability and what can we do about it? Each of us can do our part!
Has it happened to you? Hope not. But a different—and more harmful—type of identity theft may have happened to a person with a disability that you know. We all have the power to stop this "crime"!
Do the words used to describe you have an impact on your life? You bet! Contrary to the age-old "sticks and stones" lesson we learned as children, words do matter!
For too long, people who happen to have conditions we call "disabilities" have been subjected to devaluation, marginalization, prejudice, and more. And the first way to devalue someone is through language, by using words or labels to identify a person/group as "less-than," as "the other," "not like us," and so forth. Once a person/group has been identified this way, it makes it easier to justify prejudice and discrimination. Our language shapes our attitudes; our attitudes shape our language; they're intertwined. And our attitudes and language drive our actions!
This page features People First Language articles and other articles related to more respectful and accurate language.
Using People First Language—putting the person before the disability—and eliminating old, prejudicial, and hurtful descriptors, can move us in a new direction. People First Language is not political correctness; instead, it demonstrates good manners, respect, the Golden Rule, and more—it can change the way we see a person, and it can change the way a person sees herself! The articles below can help us begin to use more respectful and accurate language and create positive change in the process!
In addition to these articles, Kathie Snow covers People First Language in her books and presentations, and People First Language products are available in the Disability is Natural Online Store.
Click on the title to open the PDF version of the article. Click here to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (needed to open PDF documents).
If you use a screenreader and need a plain text version, please call 1-210-320-0678.
Until we learn to appreciate the power of language and the importance of using it responsibly, we will continue to produce negative social consequences for those victimized by dangerous language habits.
J. Dan Rothwell, Telling It Like It Isn't:
Language Misuse and Malpractice/What We Can Do About It
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense